Legends of Dominance - 35
- ( 1911 - 1966 )
Irving Klaw was born in Brooklyn on November 9, 1911. He was one of a total of three sons & three daughters. Among them, Irving was closest to his sister Paula, about ten years his junior. His Father`s death occurred while Irving was still in high school. Off Irving went to begin the first of a succession of jobs, with Paula going to live with her Mother.
Irving`s first properietory adventure was as owner of a book & photo store at 209 East 14th Street in Lower Manhattan. By 1939 the photos were outselling the books & Irving moved across the street to 212 East 14th &opened Irving Klaw Pin Up Photos & his outdoor sign touted: "Pin-up photos of your favorite movie stars, latest movie scenes, bathing beauties, popular cowboy stars & vocalists, bandleaders."
The business flourished through World War Two. In the late 1940's, he added different pictures to his stock - those of attractive females tied up & gagged and dressed in bizarre leather, rubber & satin wardrobes. These photo`s were bought from, amongst others, Charles Guyette & John Coutts. Where he had done alright before, he was prospering now. Eventually, the Klaw bondage photo stockpile of black & white & color scenes numbered 4000, not to mention his prodigious selection of film & well conceived bondage cartoons.
In the 1950's, Irving Klaw became known as the "King of Pin-Up". People could come in to the Movie Star News storefront & page through files of photos & purchase them for 5 cents.
Before long, certain patrons began requesting cheesecake & bondage photos. It was then that Irving Klaw started his studio, using models like Bettie Page, & burlesque dancers like Baby Lake, Tempest Storm, Blaze Starr, & of course Lili St. Cyr, who did two photo shoots while in the Klaw Studio filming Varietease.
He hired photographers & models to produce the photos, & he was a perfectionist. If a model showed up for a shooting session with a run in her stockings, not carrying spare hosiery, Klaw would cancel the shooting, pay the model, & send her home. Despite the flood of bondage photos turned out by numerous rivals, many connoisseurs still consider Klaw's work to be the most appealing & definitive bondage photos of all time.His output far outstripped the combined product of all his competitors. His photos were marketed by ads in magazines such as "Titter", "Wink","Confidential" and "Beauty Parade".
Klaw was assisted in running the company by his sister, Paula, & her husband Jack Kramer. Devoted to her brother, Paula served as his right arm. She frequently supervised the shooting sessions, arranging the poses, & tied up the models herself.
In the early success years (1951 - 1955) of Irving Klaw, he used to send out the Nutrix bulletins ( which featured stories & pictures illustrated by both Eric Stanton & Gene Bilbrew ) to subscribing customers who had to pay the 25 cents coverprice, but also to his regular mailorder buyers. They got them for free, included with their mail orders.
Throughout the 1950's & early 1960's, Klaw & some of his contemporary publishers found themselves on the receiving end of a salvo of serious government charges, primarily conspiracy to use the US mails to send obscene materials. Sometime in 1955 Senator Robert Kennedy instructed (Carey) Estes Kefauver to head the Senate Obscenity Investigation Committee. This was set up to investigate Irving Klaw's mail order business. Klaw & Kramer were indicted, facing charges of conspiracy to use the U.S. mails to send obscene materials, on June 27 1963, Kramer being freed on $5000 & Klaw on $10,000 bail. He was found guilty, but the jury's verdict was later overturned by the Federal Court of Appeals.
When Klaw's studio came under fire for the bondage & wrestling photos featuring the likes of Bettie Page, Klaw, weary of relentless legal opposition & despite the lucrative business, destroyed his entire collection of negatives & left the bondage business. In 1964 he turned Movie Star News over to his sister Paula, & died shortly after in 1966 of peritonitis.
The stress from this senate pressure undoubtedly contributed to Irving Klaw's death. However, hundreds of cheesecake photos remain & are available from Movie Star News to this very day.